Virtual racing esports steps up a gear

Whilst the esports realm has traditionally favoured first-person shooters and battle arena titles, recent efforts have been launched to make virtual motor racing a competitive gaming hit. 2019 will see the iRacing World Championship partnering with Porsche to give gamers a chance to win a share of a $100,000 prize pool, while the advent of ‘live ghost racing’ aims to make the gaming phenomenon even more realistic and immersive.


© iRacing

The FIA Formula One Esports Series was successfully launched in 2017, and it seems as though there is plenty of hunger for racing titles to make a big impression in the competitive gaming realm. Motor racing games such as Gran Turismo, Need For Speed and even Mario Kart have proven to be some of the most popular video games ever. But does virtual motor racing have what it takes to appear alongside the likes of CSGO and LoL in the esports domain?

All about the Porsche iRacing World Championship

The iRacing World Championship has already been in existence for a decade, but the competitive gaming tournament have taken things up a level through their new partnership with the motor company, Porsche. The partnership will see Porsche adding their expertise and financial clout to the event that features gamers driving a virtual Porsche 911 car throughout a 10-round tournament.

The iRacing World Championship will begin in January 2019, and it will give virtual drivers the chance to race on legendary circuits like Monza, Silverstone, Indianapolis, Suzuka and Nurburgring. 2018 saw the competitive gamer, Martin Kroenke, winning his third successive iRacing World Championship title and all eyes will be on the German esports star to repeat his epic feat next year.

The next season follows on from the Porsche SimRacing Summit that iRacing hosted in November that saw €30,000 up for grabs between the 32 competing drivers. The iRacing brand have also expanded their operations to cover simulations of events like the NASCAR Cup, IndyCar racing and FIA Grand Prix races.

With no less than 40 official iRacing series to compete in, iRacing have become one of the biggest brands in the virtual racing world. Whether you are going head-to-head with a friend or taking on established champions like Martin Kroenke, it’s the relative simplicity of iRacing’s events that could help them break virtual racing into the esports domain.

Increased commitment from Formula One Esports Series

For many motor racing fans, it’s the Formula One Esports Series that still manages to provide the greatest amount of realism and excitement. The Formula One Esports Series kicked off in 2017, and it has seen the British esports driver, Brendon Leigh, pick up two successive championship titles.

Whilst there was a fair amount of cynicism about Formula One’s involvement with competitive gaming, the 2018 Formula One Esports Series proved to a big success. Formula One stated that no less than 1.2 million viewers on TV networks and 3.2 million people streamers watched the finals live. Although traditional Formula One races tend to have an older demographic, 70% of the final’s viewers were under the age of 34 years.


© Formula 1

The esports racing tournament also proved to be hugely popular amongst players with over 66,000 gamers competing over four qualifying rounds to make it through to the F1 Esports Pro Draft. Whilst it took plenty of skill and luck to make it through to the finals, the eventual prize pool of $200,000 helped make the Formula One Esports Series the most lucrative motor racing esport.

What’s stopping virtual motor racing becoming an esports world-beater?

While the growth of Formula One Esports Series and iRacing is hugely impressive, there remain a few obstacles for virtual motor racing to overcome before it manages to rank alongside the likes of LoL and CSGO in the competitive gaming realm.

Realism continues to be a hugely important consideration in sports simulators like this. Whilst games like Overwatch and Fortnite can stretch the boundaries of physics, for sports games, their players want to be able to feel like they are actually playing alongside the best in the world.

Unfortunately, it looks like Formula One Esports Series have still to overcome the issues that saw the Ferrari team abstain from allowing their brand to be featured in this year’s gaming tournament. Whilst the other nine Formula One racing teams like Mercedes and Red Bull authorised the use of their teams’ likeness, it seems as though Ferrari are less willing to tie their brand to esports.

However, the advent of ‘live ghost racing’ looks to provide an extra sense of realism for all gamers. This was launched in partnership with the FIA Formula E Championship series and gave players the chance to race alongside real-life racers via the impressive ‘telemetry’ technology. So whilst virtual motor racing has plenty of ways to go, it looks like things are rapidly improving.